Tag Archives: Easter

Lighting a fire

Well it’s happened. Recent events have taken their toll. the problem is that as usual I am behind myself, so people for the last couple of weeks have telling me I should be depressed, destroyed, etc and I have been quite strong in answering that on the contrary I am energised…angry, sad, scared but full of energy.

But today I am tired, I have been struggling for the last three days, each days finding excuses why it is “just hard today” and being very very unproductive but today I will call it. I am a Christian, I believe in hope at all costs, I believe in resurrections but I am sometimes tired and demoralised (the cold getting deep into my bones does not help).

I want to gather with people for mutual support, instead what ends up happening is people look to me for leadership and inspiration (or is it only that I imagine they do) and I must be a hope giver not someone who needs. I am sometimes tired and demoralised, I never asked to be a leader (save when I was very, very young) and when I ask people to see me as stupid, disengaged, lazy, etc to feel sorry for me, to carry me they tell me not to be silly they don’t see me that way at all. And then I try to shoulder the burden wondering how on earth they do it. HOW?

So then I remember that it has been too long since I danced/sparred with the lectionary apart from my last-minute attempt last week.  It’s Pentecost and I “ought” to be inspired (well perhaps I will be in two days time). At the moment I am tired and broken and cynical and irrational and wondering how to hold it all together which is certainly a good way to begin Pentecost. So instead of a sermon I will give you a tapestry, or maybe a patchwork of thoughs, with bits of the readings as well.

” they were all in one place together. ” (Acts 2)

Hincho mi corazón para que entre
como cascada ardiente el Universon.
El Nuevo día llega y su llegada
me deja sin aliento.
Canto como la gruta que es colmada
canto mi día Nuevo.

Gabriela Mistral

  “I open out my heart so the Universe
can enter like a cataract of fire.
The new day comes; its coming
takes my breath away.
I sing, a hollow filled to overflowing,

I sing my break of day.” (translation by Ursula K Le Guin.)

“I have told you this while I am with you.
… the Holy Spirit …
will teach you everything” (John)

Teach

teach you

teach you everything

“Education is not filling a bucket, it is lighting a fire” (various attributions).

We connect with each other. We sit together in our need for togetherness. We open our broken hearts. We forget to hide from the darkness we fear will devour us. We can smell its rancid breath, the future burning of the forests, the melting of the icecaps, the hunger of our own children.

Someone eleison.

A frightening world without the child’s notion of a divine ATM that will spew out graces in exchange for flattery and pleading. Lord, Lord, Lord, anyone have mercy we want all the answers, we want the burden of solving our own problems to be taken away.

My enemies all encompassed me (was that a psalm when I was a child?)

I could barely crush a fly in my current state.

What is this Universe that is coming? What is this new day? Do we want it? I barely had time to get my head around the old day.

Life-ful Spirit eleison. Something. Be a reason. Give me hope. Hold my hand I am so scared. I don’t like to suffer but I weep more for my children. Eleison, eleison. Are you listening? Do you know what I am talking about? All the trivial things- what will I eat today, who will love me, dare I check my email, who was I meant to respond to, are the bins out, will the cats fight if I leave them together? Eleison. Christe the ultimate resiliant one eleison. But you gave up the ghost didn’t you. Is despair the road to hope?

If I knew what to do I would do it.

 

 

“before she became fire, she was water,

quenching the thirst of every dying creature.

She gave and she gave

until she turned from sea to desert.

But instead of dying from the heat,

the sadness, the heartache,

she took all of her pain

and from her own ashes became fire” (Nikita Gill)

 

Well…it’s hardly comforting is it?

Gaia eleison

pray burning is only a metaphor.

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Superheroes must leave, but love is reciprocal.

It’s time for me to get over my addiction to superheroes. Oh I don’t mean the Marvel Universe, although many of my friends enjoy that, I need more feminist storylines than I can find there. I mean people, the very first example I can think of is my Mum.
My mum used to do all these amazing things, she made things happen, she dealt with every crisis, she knew too much and she never seemed to rest. Being a child meant that Christmas was a sort of magic that happened. In 1996 I became a mum and to my shock there were no super-powers conferred on me with the position, but now I had to be the person who made things happen and unravelled all problems and worked so hard (and largely invisibly) to make the Christmas magic.
There were other heroes too…there were teachers and leaders. All sorts of people over the years for me to admire. In activist groups there was always someone who seemed larger than life and it was my privilege to try to become involved enough so they would notice me, so I would be part of the team. But of course the heroes served another purpose also. Heroes meant I didn’t have to be fully committed I could come and go on the periphery of the action, I could “contribute” but someone else would take the responsibility for what we achieved. Heroes were greater than me, more sparkling so they could do all the work. I would follow when I could and expect tolerance for my human limitations and lack of consistency.
This view of the world has always made it hard for me to celebrate Ascension, which I tend to experience as abandonment by one of my necessary heroes. I have a fear of abandonment which does not help me feel joyful.
Wouldn’t life be easier if Jesus had just stayed around indefinitely to answer questions and perform miracles and argue with out enemies saying “hey look I have been here for centuries, even death couldn’t stop me” and outranking them? In this sort of wishful thinking of course, he would have come to Australia and be part of my communities and advocate for me (possibly a questionable element in the privileged Christianity of the minority world).
Jesus did not decide to work in this way. He lived with us, spoke with us, walked with us, suffered with us and had enough commitment even to die. He came back to offer hope and to show that we should never give up…and then he showed enough trust in us to leave.
Yes trust. As the original second reading (which I used as the responsorial psalm) says, God’s power strengthens our hidden self and brings out of us a deep and integral desire for God, for real meaning. There is hope in what we are called to do, but we are called rather than led or enabled. God asks us to make our relationship more mature than in the beginning, the idea here is emotional labour.
Where a relationship is healthy and respectful BOTH people are taking responsibility for the emotional labour and a measure of responsibility each for themselves. So we are not called to a toxic dependency on God, to be crying out to be saved but to watch and listen and come to love and learn and live what God is. God is Godself in relationship with us, in us and calling us through the sacraments to touch and be more than followers. Jesus was not a figurehead, not a superhero but a fellow-traveller, a teacher who becomes a friend. We are supposed to become what Jesus has shown us.
The angels tell us not to stand and stare at the sky, not to look after Jesus as if we had been abandoned. Instead we are to find God here and now, in our bread, in our community and in our lives. So I invite you now to sit and think of your own life and the encounter you have found within it this week. How has God been deeply embedded, instead of leaving this week? If you are not abandoned, what is it you can do to take responsibility and move toward relationship with Christ? What is our call and how are we companioned in fulfilling it? You may also wish to share with people sitting near you.

Not finding it in the lectionary this week

Edit: When I wrote this I was unaware that this week is reconciliation week. I feel a bit ashamed that I was unaware but I think some of my points work for that occasion. At church we reflected of reconciliation week, the need to decolonise, the recent arrest of the Catholic archbishop of Adelaide for covering up child abuse, our desire to move away from any model of church that is a “boy’s club” (a man said this), and our tears and love for the people suffering the fall-out of these toxic cultures. I also reflected on the fact that in the week gone we celebrated Pansexual and Panromantic visibility day and that people whose love is outside the box (but respectful, equal and between consenting adults) show the dance of the Trinity in their being.

The idea of “chosenness” that comes through in the first two readings and the psalm this week seems cosy and comforting but it actually if we look closer deeply problematic.

I speak with the anger and bitterness of the outsider- chosen last at team sports, excluded from games and parties and a child, ganged-up on, teased, criticised, harassed, written on with pen and then punished by parents for being written on. I speak with the pain of the eldest child in a large and dysfunctional family- although my feelings of being replaced and passed over were not (I now as a parent myself realise) a completely accurate reflection of reality, the feelings were real. I speak as the child who couldn’t speak English, the teenager who wore hand-me-downs from old people, the young single mother in a primary school where everyone else seemed to be comfortably middle-class. I speak as someone who has suffered mental illness, mild alcoholism, chronic dysphoria around sexual identity.

The minute someone is the “chosen people” you are also creating outsiders, the excluded ones, the ones who do not measure up. I felt this only on a gut level as a child – something about the presumed “chosenness” of the people of God (and lets not blame the Jews this idea is just as rife in the so called “New Testament”) something there seemed a bit off, even when I was a pious little child who assumed my inability to grasp this idea as “fair” and my desire to feel empathy for the ones who were not “chosen” was something I had to try to repress or grow out of (I spent my childhood repressing many things and got quite good at it, not so much now).

I speak with the amusement of the queer, feminist, deconstructive, almost post-Christian (except God doesn’t quite let me slip away). I speak as the outsider who no longer tries to fit in and be “normal”. My hermeneutic of suspicion is triggered by this first reading where we are supposed to believe that no one else ever experienced God until it could be done in the proper patriarchally approved and religiously institutionalised way in the correct sort of fire. This is what the Christian missionaries believed, the ones who worked tirelessly to aid colonialism, at times putting a slightly more benign face of it with gifts of food and clothing but nevertheless destroying cultures and families in the name of this great and good and only Lord and his structure of “rightness”.

Because if we are right then the others are wrong. If we are chosen then the others are rejected. If we have the only and one truth then the others have nothing of value.

And so it begins.

The gospel on this occasion gives no relief. Jesus is the proper rubber-stamped figurehead of the new world-order they worship him repressing their doubts and he commissions them to go out and reach everyone with his marketing message. We can try to cosy up to this, try to read the commissioning as preaching a gospel of liberation and justice, because that fits our theology it fits who we know God is and who we experience Jesus as.

What/who we know experientially and sacramentality is all we really have.

But the church has not necessarily read it this way, when they have seen “make disciples of all the nations” that has fed a deficit view of nations that are not already Christian and an expansionistic mission. Many missionaries no doubt meant well and some were kinder than secular colonists (mind you these colonists also would have considered themselves “Christian”) but this expansionistic mission did huge harm to many people, including perhaps my own people in Latvija colonised by German “Lords” and including certainly Indigenous Australians taken over and used as slaves by the English.

All of this was considered a faithful reading of today’s gospel. All of this is the shame I feel if I admit to anyone that I am a “Christian”.

I am not finding life or Godde in these readings (though perhaps a wiser preacher at church will glean something). I wanted to reflect on the Trinity, on difference and loving “other” or “thou” within God. I want to reflect on the diving dance “peripatesis”, as I learned at theology college the movement of the Trinity is in and out and through and around each other. There is love and beauty, there is relationship and great complexity at the heart of God.

Let’s leave behind colonialist traditions after seeing them for what they are and realising we will be called to account as a culture. Let’s reflect on how we are invited into the peripatesis of the Trinity, the respectful and madly joyful dance of God, the eternal turning toward the other. We are the image of God and as such are called to turn to the image of God in thoughtful listening like Jesus in prayer, in admiring love like the creator at Jesus’ baptism, in nurturing care like the spirit who flows in and through Jesus to the world.

I was hoping that the feast of the Trinity would remind us that “Wisdom has built a house” and invites all to celebrate. There is room then not to colonise, but to meet on equal terms the “others” who are not “Christians” but may have met Wisdom in another place because she likes to get out there- she is no enclosed victim-lady. Wisdom of course, the pre-existing companion of God the Creator is the one embodied as Jesus in the “New Testament”.

But if the lectionary has let me down, then I will dance right out of it to all of scripture and to the ultimate aim in life to understand and heal others. And I will pray:

Father, Mother, Creator of all, Midwife of each life that comes into being. Teach us to know ourselves in your image and see each other in your image. Teach us reverence for all your creation, showing us how to nurture seeds and stones and polar ice caps better. Thank you for naughty kittens and waddling penguins. Thank you for the clever things humans say. Thank you for the richness of which we see only a part. Call us deeper into the connection and love at the heart of your creative work.

Jesus, Christ, Wisdom, Sophia, Son, Word, Mother-Hen, Vine, Way, Truth, Life. As Wisdom you have the eye for detail and for joy. As Jesus you showed unbelievable courage and commitment. You are the one who seeks to protect, heal, scold, reform, feed, teach, guide, send-out and suffer for us and for all creation. You feed us your body and blood, you call us to honour what we eat and to live. Death cannot claim you because your nature is to live always. You bring us transformative possibilities and radical hope but nor without hard work and possibility of suffering also. If the whole world would love you then we would find newness of life. We will seek you and we will find you if we seek with all our heart.

Holy Spirit, dove, flame, fire, love, flow. Giver of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, reverence and respect of God. Pour out your gifts to us. Show us the Creator and the Word in our lives. Help us to read the gospels in the right frame, receptive to your Wisdom and closed off to hatred and abuse. Inspire us with life, fire us with pregnant possibilities like Mary pregnant with the Christ. Remain with us when we are troubled or suffering or even in death. Bring us back to our vocation to love. Bring us back into your presence giver of life.

Trinity of God may I see the love poured out in you each to the others and may I live my life in divine dance, seeking to connect as you connect, seeking to unconditionally love as you love, seeking where the hope is and strengthening there. May my life find meaning, joy, love, peace in you.

Amen.

 

Instead of a reflection, a poem

I felt like today’s readings were more or less a repeat of what we have already been doing. I know there must be new insights in them but I wasn’t feeling it this week- it just felt like “this again”. Any newness of life at the moment seems hard-won, though my garden more than likely appreciates the rain. Just about the only thing that made me pray this week, happened at karaoke while I was singing “Better man” by Robbie Williams so this is one of those weeks when I focus on an extra-canonical reading.

“…I fear the cold, feel I’m getting old before my time.

As my soul feels [it may have been “heals” but in my case definitely “feels”] the shame, I will grow through this pain, cause I’m doing all I can to be a better man”

Readers who know me well, will question the “man” but I leave it in as a provocation. And reflecting on positive shame and the dryness of my spiritual well this week, prompted a short piece from me:

Des(s)ert(ed)

 

All praise to the risk takers.

 

Capitalism gives us all the world

if only we kneel down

and worship

bread made from stone.

(See e.g. Luke 4:1-13) But God I’m doing all I can, to be a better “man”. Amen.

 

 

Believers, doubters, questioners: one heart and mind?

I have been writer’s blocked off late but thank God I went to church and could soak in some wisdom from people around me and experience the readings without being distracted as much I have been.

 

The first reading is so Utopian, I am almost 100% sure it is fiction (sorry to tell you that). It shows us an idealized view of the early church when all of us know that despite our best intentions organisations become filled with disagreement and mistrust, resentments flare and people feel taken for granted. Even without anyone meaning to do the wrong thing, this can happen (and some people are less than ideally motivated as well).

 

Having said that, I like to sink into that first reading, early church beautiful idyll and let it reassure me about the VALUES that our faith is built upon.

 

If you get all your information about Christianity from Facebook or other popular media sources, you could be forgiven for thinking Christianity is a very right wing and harsh religion. People styling themselves “Christians” are always attacking left-wing, pinko, tree-hugging, hippies like me. A couple of times in my political campaigning people said they liked my policies but wanted to vote for something “Christian” as if redistributing wealth and having a sense of the common good was something invented by Marx.

 

No offence to Marx, but take a careful look at this reading, so many years earlier, where they are holding property in common and redistributing any surplus to the “have-nots”. It doesn’t say they are forcing people to work or in some way humiliate themselves to receive the help either, they work for the good of all and they share generously with all.

 

If only this is what it meant to be a Christian. That would definitely be a redeemed post-resurrection reality wouldn’t it? That would inspire hope. Let’s move through the happy psalm full of the sorts of reversals (the stone which the builders rejected) that seem to be a hallmark of Jesus’ transformative ministry (and speak to me of social justice) and take a look at the second reading then.

 

In the second reading, love of God and love of other humans is linked. Obeying God’s commandments inevitably leads to love. Obedience here is not a burden or a discipline, it is a life-hack that leads to victory and right relations. When John tells us so insistently that Jesus came through water and blood I think of every birth ever where slippery little babies squeeze out of their mothers in a watery, bloody mess. Jesus’ passage through death then is a birth, some artists and poets speak of the tomb as a womb, the earth springing open to birth him.

 

Fuel for ecofeminist thought I guess.

 

Forward to Jesus, coming back to see his “disciples” and the story of doubting Thomas who I have always had a sneaking sympathy for but now the more so because I am trying to reconcile critical realism and feminist standpoint theory and think about epistemology and do we really “know” what we think we “know”? And besides given all the fake news and innuendo that abounds it would be well for people to be a little more cautious and doubting and critical.

 

Notably, Jesus is not angry at Thomas. Maybe amused, maybe having to force himself to be patient but he works with Thomas’ doubt.

 

Thomas needs experience as proof, Jesus allows him to experience through his senses the truth. Look. Touch. But also by implication (since he speaks to him) Listen.

 

It is frustrating when we know that something is true and we need people to believe us and to jump on board with it and they simply refuse. They may have a stereotypical news that what we are saying is an “old wives tale” unreliable because it is by or for women. They might think we are kidding ourselves or exaggerating or imagining what we say we know. People are reluctant to believe.

 

It is good to be sceptical like Thomas, to not try to erase truth with pretty fairytales. It is good to be cautious and demand evidence and stand back from the bandwagon. But it can hold back progress too to be over-cautious or to be overstuck in what we have always known rather than new possibilities, the “good news” in life. So there is some middle-ground that we all constantly need to negotiate and renegotiate (see my problem with the disciples in the first reading believing and knowing all things in agreement?). We need to be open but not naïve. We need to welcome, to show, to prove, to humour the unbelievers (when we believe we have some truth). We need workable middle-grounds but we also need human interactions.

 

Imagine if Thomas had switched off so much he did not speak to the other disciples any more or if they had cast him out for his unbelief? Then he either would never have encountered the risen Jesus or they would not have witnessed his encounter. If our truth is life-giving we need to constantly invite people into it. If our critical questions are valid we need to try to have some loyalty and link (as far as possible) with our communities that need the challenge. It’s easy to say, much harder to show exactly where and how and who has to give way to preserve peace.

 

It helps to believe that Jesus will come and/or send the Holy Spirit to inspire our connectedness and our constructive critiques.

 

It helps to hold out some measure of the flickering hope that resurrection is possible. Even now.

 

Maranatha.

 

Easter sequence with revised theology

This just kind of wrote itself in my head (as they do). It’s not perfect but I wanted to (begin to) address the tension between the remembered excitement of the Easter sequence when I was a child and my current unease at some of the imagery and unhealthy power-relations in the version I grew up with. Younger Stef, little Stef would be unhappy that my version has fewer verses but most people these days would not use so many in any case. With thanks to the one I grew up with which you can take a look at here

All people so diverse now bring

all that you are; together sing

alleluia alleluia

Jesus the lamb, the sacrifice

lives now forever, now death dies

alleluia, alleluia

 

The Human One who walked our ways

who broke our bread, now he is raised

alleluia, alleluia

Say happy Madgalene oh say

What did you see there by the way?

alleluia alleluia

 

I saw the tomb of my dear Friend,

to preach the gospel I am sent

alleluia, alleluia

I saw he glory, heard the Word

Love lives anew to heal the world

alleluia, alleluia

 

We now with hope-filled heart and voice

know you as risen and rejoice

alleluia, alleluia

to love you in the poor we seek

our hearts burn in us when you speak

alleluia, alleluia

You’re risen but what am I?

The second reading finishes with the instruction: “let us celebrate the feast,
not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

Challenge accepted. How do I clear out and renew my life? What malice and wickedness lurks in corners of my (mostly) good intention? How can I be sincere and true to my calling, ready for the unknown hope after all the deaths and disappointments of life?

The suggested gospel of the day stops short without the abrupt ending to Mark’s gospel. I feel the abrupt ending speaks for me. I am caught up in a sort of Holy Saturday stupor- for me, for me the resurrection has not really sunk in, life is not really changed. You can see this, because it took until Wednesday to write last Sunday’s blog (for no good reason, I was just dry and empty). Good news needs time to be processed and finding safe people to debrief with is sometimes difficult.

Prayer life is a bit like any other relationship, if we merely chase what “feels good” we miss most of it. But I am left supposedly rejoicing and transformed and in fact feeling a profound sense of anti-climax. How do I change myself or gain some sort of understanding?

I feel a great deal of anger towards the church, and for a while I was expressing it in my blog, but I became to feel uncomfortable with the excess of my negative emotion, and especially the way it might contain traces of selfishness within it (or seem to). So I have tried to go further inward and transform myself. I have tried to focus on the positive and call myself to account rather than ranting at external forces. This was the next cycle and I feel that cycle too is exhausted.

By too much navel-gazing and piety I have become perfunctory about faith, I am not “feeling it” but then at odd moments I feel resentment or passive aggression toward the idea of even being at church (and my specific church community are so lovely and have done so much for me that this is completely irrational). I think rather than rising above my anger, like I thought I was going, I have merely repressed it (again). What is the answer? I don’t know. What is the next step?

Christ is risen.

“He” is risen indeed. Or so I am supposed to respond.

Is rising like getting up in the morning, because it seems significant that lately I have been uncharacteristically slow and reluctant to get out of my bed (or is that just the approach of winter?). I ache inside, some deep emotional hurt that isn’t so easily healed by a few Hallelujahs!

Did Jesus still hurt from the crucifixion? Physically? Mentally? Emotionally? Spiritually? Are we really supposed to see him post-resurrection as so renewed that pain is absent (and yet witness the wounds). What did he do with the pain? Isn’t death meant to be the only solution for that absoluteness? If he triumphed over death itself then at what cost? No cost?

Is this a “happily ever after” moment?

I live in the real world, what on earth am I supposed to do with that?

 

Jesus,

How do I hold a post-resurrection reality? How do I soothe a pain denied, a death reversed?

What am I when I am not dying?

How do I reach out to pain, numbness and confusion in others? How do I keep moving forward? I want some sort of meaning!

What do you want from me?

Is there something we can work on together?

I feel horrifyingly alone and insignificant within all this alienating “glory”. Connect me in somehow with resurrection.

Amen